tv CNN Tonight With Don Lemon CNN January 27, 2018 12:00am-1:00am PST
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this is "cnn tonight." i'm don lemon. a little past 11:00 on the east coast. live with new developments. president trump back in the white house. a white house in turmoil. the russia investigation getting closer and closer to the president. the bombshell revelation that the special counsel was nearly fired. the president's own white house counsel threatening to quit if that happened. the parallels to another earlier presidential scandal are unavoidable. but just how close are we getting to a watergate here? and how much of investigators most crucial evidence is coming from inside the white house? the calls coming from inside the white house. i want to bring in two people who have first hand knowledge of this. elizabeth holstman was a member of the house judiciary during watergate. and cnn contributor john dean was nixon white house counsel. so good to have you both on.
john, i'm going to start with you. explain why you think there are echos of watergate in this russia investigation. >> well, they both start with a penetration, if you will, or attempted penetration in one case of the d.n.c., the democratic national committee. and roll out from there. of course gordon liddy and a team of burglars broke into the watergate complex where the democratic national committee was located and tried to plant or fix a bug and take some photographs. the russians electronically penetrated the democratic national committee and spread the fruits of their entry all over the world in e-mails and what have you. so that's where the parallel starts and it goes on and on with a cover-up that we still don't have the end of the story with regard to mr. trump. >> elizabeth, john was here last night so i know his thoughts on the reporting of this story. i want to hear yours about wanting to fire mueller in june. tell me yours. >> well, i mean, the parallels to watergate are scarey.
i mean, watergate involved, yes, interference with an election, the electoral process by the president -- by the president's team. and here we are still trying to find out what the connection was with the russians. we know the russians interfered. but we are still trying to find out what the connections were with the trump campaign. but there is no question that in watergate what happened was that the president of the united states just when the -- from the get-go orchestrated an effort to cover up the break-in and to make sure that nobody found out that his people were involved. it involved the firing of the special prosecutor archibald cox. that's what triggered the impeachment and downfall of richard nixon. and we have had one firing of fbi head. and we've had another attempted firing of mueller. another -- the special counsel.
so we are getting into watergate territory in the sense that the president thinks he is above the law, that he can pick who is going to investigate him, that he can stop an investigation, that he can thwart an investigation, obstruct an investigation. that's not an america that we know and that we tolerate. >> you're you were a member of the house judiciary committee during watergate. >> yes. >> you know of the parallels and you spoke of them. >> yes. >> for the people in washington -- this seems so political now when you look at the -- go on. >> that's the sad thing. it's very political. i mean it didn't start out being political. >> was the environment the same way during -- were people as polarized then. >> no. because what happened was you had the senate -- first of all what happened was you had a federal judge who smelled a rat. the watergate burglars were caught and all pleading guilty he smelled there was something wrong. he said i'm imposing a steph
sentence because there is something going on. one of the burglars said i'm not spending 25 years in prison for this. there were hire ups involved. that ultimately led to the senate having a select committee that looked at watergate. it was -- you know at the beginning, a little partisan. led by a democrat. but you had a strong partisan republican and in the end they worked together to found the truth. >> what's happening now then, liz. >> the house judiciary committee- let me finish. >> absolutely. >> the house judiciary committee then started its impeachment proceeding not because some special prosecutor told us or not because the republicans wanted it or the democrats wanted it but because the american people after the saturday night massacre, after archibald cox said we are not a banana republic and the house judiciary committee, congress you have to do something. it didn't start out on a partisan basis. and the people who led the house judiciary committee understood that there was never going to be an impeachment unless it was bipartisan.
>> so then what has infect our politics now that this is -- >> people don't put the country over their own personal interests. that's the difference. >> simple as that. >> simple as that. >> john i want to ask you because this "washington post" article by woodward and bernstein from june of 1973 this is how it raids. it says former presidential counsel john w. dean iii has told senators and prosecutor s disclosed aspects of the watergate cover-up with mr. nixon or in mr. nixon's presence on at least 35 occasions between january and april of this year according to reliable sources. look at that, there were reliable sources back then and peopled trusted them. you continued to work at the white house while you were cooperating. what was that like? >> well, i was very open with my colleagues when i broke rank and told them i was going to hire a lawyer. i had actually suggested within 48 hours of the break-in at watergate that we hire an experienced criminal lawyer. and my -- one of my superiors
john erlgman waved it away. said, no, no, we don't need that. we're not going there at all. that was one of the early mistakes we made. whoa i did hire a lawyer is when they were asking me to lie, to issue a false and bogus report based on a statement the president had made that nobody presently employed in his administration had anything to do with the watergate break-in. well, that's true, they weren't involved with break-in, per se, but there was certainly a lot they were involved in and i wasn't about to write that port. as they pushed it came to shove at one point. i actually told the president there was a cancer on his presidency in essence there was of an existential threat of his survival in office, and he had answers in an hour and 50 minute conversation for every problem i raised. it was rather disappointing. i left him with the bottom line to make it difficult to deal
with me that i thought i was going to jail for what i had done. and he says, no, no, no, john you're the lawyer. the lawyer doesn't go to jail. so we have some parallels in lack of understanding and appreciation of the crime of obstruction of justice in the two presidents too. >> we have learned, john, that 20 white house staffers including eight from the white house counsel's office have sat for voluntary interviews with investigators. what do you think is must be like that every one knows who has talked to the special counsel and when? >> well, they don't know what one is saying necessarily about the other. so they're going in and hopefully that provokes them to tell the truth. >> can they talk to each other afterwards about what they said? >> they can. there is no prohibition against that. they may be asked if they've done that. which makes is look a little bit
more conspiratorial. but there is no prohibition per se. and if they're telling the truth, there is nothing wrong it. in fact the white house lawyers may be debriefing them after they come back for all we know. that's not unusual. but it creates a lot of tension in a white house when it's under investigation, as nixon's was, as partially the clinton white house was. i've talked to people who were there. as i'm sure is happening right now with the trump white house. >> elizabeth, in davos today, the president called reports that he wanted to fire mueller, he said it was fake news. what do you think the president doesn't -- does he not understand what is happening here? >> well, i think the president thinks that if he just lies enough enough people will believe him and he can just get away with it. to me it's astonishing. because a lot of people know about this story. i mean it was not only reported by the "times." it was determined by the "washington post" and other news
media. we know this happened. maybe all the details aren't exactly right. but that's going to be a big problem that we -- that the country is going to have to face because we have a president who doesn't know how to tell the truth or can't distinguish between the truth and a lie. how can he appear before the special prosecutor, the special counsel? how will his lawyers allow him to go there? and then if he doesn't go, what kind of constitutional crisis are we confronting? and i think that's very serious. basically what we see in the effort to fire, the firing of comby, the effort to fire mueller is a president who wants to put himself above the law. he has no respect for institutions of justice. well, we can't function as a country as an america, as a democracy if a president controls our prosecutorial systems, institutions of justice. so it's going to be a clash between a democratic system and donald trump.
>> i think we're headed towards a constitutional crisis. >> i do too. >> i really do. it's going to be interesting to watch the next few months and couple of years. i want -- i'll start with you and john i'm asking you the same question you have a little bit longer time to think about it. do you think this russia investigation, the resolution, will it be political or legal or both? >> well, the -- what mueller is doing is legal. i have -- i think he has acted in a methodical, professional, careful way. but there are constraints on him. how do we hold the president accountable? criminally accountable? that's one question. how do we hold the president politically accountable through impeachment or otherwise? those are issues that go beyond what a prosecutor can do. >> yeah. >> and i don't know. ultimately it's up to the american people. >> right. >> the american people demanded that impeachment take place in 1973. >> yeah. >> that's why congress acted. if the american people want to preserve our democracy as we have known it then they're going
to have to nanosecond that congress act. >> john dean? >> liz mentioned something that's very important, is the timing. watergate spanned a much longer period of time. news cycles were a little slower, had a little more time to absorb it than they do today. but the american people were ready for nixon to leave when he left. the american people i don't think are there at this point with trump. i think it will be both a legal resolution and a political resolution. you had phil lakavara on earlier. phil is one of those who believed during watergate a president could and should be prosecuted. that, however, is not the policy of the department of justice. they believe that they can not prosecute a sitting president. that leaves only impeachment as a remedy. and the republicans right now probably wouldn't impeach trump
if he shot somebody on fifth avenue. that's how partisan it is. but that can change with the 2018 election. i think the house is going to turn over. the democrats are going to take control and they'll start the education process so people are ready to deal with this very serious issue we have. >> we shall see. constitutional crisis. we'll see. thank you both. have a good weekend. when we come back why the president famous for the tag line you're fired seems to hate hearing the words "i quit." how members of the administration may be managing their boss with threats to resign. my lineage was the vecchios and zuccolis. through ancestry, through dna i found out that i was only 16% italian. he was 34% eastern european. so i went onto ancestry, soon learned that one of our ancestors we thought was italian was eastern european. this is my ancestor who i didn't know about.
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analyst april ryan and michael de-antonio. the author of the trump biography, "the truth about trump. good evening, april you must have either the best sources in the white house or a crystal ball because i want to play this. this is from june of 2017. >> one of my sources reached out to me just before we went on air and they said there is mass hysteria in the west wing about this. we don't know if it's going to or what, we don't know. but what we do know if indeed the president does fire mueller it shows that he is impeding the process yet again. >> so the president tried to write the story off. called it fake news but today the white house didn't deny that this ever occurred. that speaks volumes. also chris ruddy is saying you see, i told you i was right. because he got a lot of pushback from the white house around the same time he said it.
>> around the same time but i think i was first. just joking. but let me. >> but it speaks volumes. >> over the years it does speak volumes. over the years i've amassed some great sources. i mean, when you're in washington for awhile, people get to know who you are and it's about building trust, not burning bridges. so i've built a lot of trust with people on all sides of the spectrum in washington. and people inside and close to this white house as well. and they continue to tell me there has been manic behavior inside away from the cameras from day one. and that was a period in time. when in president was really trying to make this happen. and then when this piece stopped when he said okay i'm not going to do this. but what he wanted to do also -- there were several options in the air. and i heard people talking about it tonight and it's very real. at a time they were looking at possibly doing musical chairs almost at justice to try to get him out. to figure out a way to get him out making it looks like his fingerprints weren't on it.
so this is a very real issue. the president is not happy with the investigation. and it's getting closer to the inner circle. and he is not happy. and it's really rubbing him the wrong way. >> michael, we learned yesterday that the threat of two simple words may have saved our country from a constitutional crisis. and those words are "i quit." why do you think those two words carry so much weight with this president? >> well, i was thinking that the rule is when you're dealing with a big bully and you're a little guy you have to step up to him and punch him in the nose first. i think that's what people are doing. the ones who get his attention are the ones who say very boldly, i'm going to quit. and then the president retreats a little bit. and thinks about the risk that he is taking. and it's quite different from when he says to someone else,
i'm going to fire you, or you're not making me happy. we're going to make a change. and you look with someone like sebastian gorka, or others whom he has let go, sean spicer, reince priebus. steve bannon. these are people who let him fire them. in other cases we have the fbi director wray and we've got now the white house counsel. and i think it happened with rex tillerson as well, and maybe gary cohn. these people who are valued by the president say, if you do that and i'm going to quit. something doesn't change i'll quit. so we are seeing over the months that april's terrific reporting -- and she doesn't need a crystal ball. >> thank you. >> was right. this was a president who was scheming to undermine the special counsel. he is -- he has been scheming to
criticize and diminish everyone involved in investigating him. his lawyers have aided that. but yet the ones who stand up to him firmly seem to be the ones who prevail. >> april, listen, let's talk about that a little bit more. i'm going to name a few more people here. don mcgahn is not the first member of the administration threatening to quit in order to get president's attention. his chief of staff john kelly threatened to quit when others in the white house wouldn't the fbi director christopher wray threatened to quit. and even jeff sessions threatened to quit after his relationship soured after he recused himself from the doj russia investigation. is threatening to quit is that going to be the only way to get the president to take something or someone seriously? >> well, let me say this. it has to be someone with some importance, someone who is actually helping the ship, helping to right the ship. not just someone of consequence.
this president right now at this moment in time, he does not want anyone to quit, anyone of senior authority who is out there in the public because it looks bad for him. and he has made that clear. for instance, right now, general kelly -- he and general kelly are not getting along well. he is trying to ride it out. we never know what's going on. there are a lot of things we are hearing. it doesn't bode well if someone of a major stature were to resign. early on like when jeff sessions tried to resign, the chief of staff was reince priebus, and reince priebus -- excuse me, got that information. reince was like, what am i going to do with this? because reince didn't have a good rapport with the president as well. that was early on when things were a little bit crazy. but now this president does not want to see more people leave.
he doesn't want any more bloodletting because it looks bad. and he presents the piece that oh we're great this is running well my team is great. but there is a problem within the team, the cogs are not coming together like they should always. >> yeah. and so -- he wants to show his power which he did, michael, with the impromptu press conference right outside of john kelly's door, right outside his office. the guy's whose primary job it appears keeping trump under control has been in the dog house ever since he said his immigration promises were, quote, uninformed. can kelly come back from that do you think? >> i think he can. no, as april pointed out, the president does seem to be concerned that the competent people around him stay. and even if for the optics of it. it looks bad to have more people depart. the first year of his presidency was marked by so much turmoil, so much turnover. and we have to consider that
some of the people are serving him very well under very tough conditions. everyone talks about how he is the worst legal client a lawyer could ever have. he may be the toughest president a chief of staff has ever dealt with. he is the toughest guy almost anyone can deal with. and you have got to see too that he is going to insult you. he is going to in the case of general kelly meeting with the press, try and put you in your place. and if you're a patriot and you're serving the country first, maybe you hang in there. and maybe we ought to be grateful for the service a lot of these folks are providing the rest of the country. >> april, you know trump gave kelly a public endorsement on twitter. what some call the kiss of death, maybe. i don't know. when we say you have
confidence -- when someone says i have completely confidence. saying kelly is doing a fantastic job. do you think his job security is in jeopardy or is he okay for the moment? >> you know, it's tough back there, and i've heard on numerous occasionings -- i mean, there was one time maybe a couple of months ago where i was getting calls from people and e-mails that it was afraid and they said, i'm hearing rumblings, could kelly be leaving? and then we heard that kelly was not leaving. but kelly has been having a hard time with this president we understand for a while. but the issue is this president wants to show that everything is steady, the course is going well. kelly is very well-revered. a military man, a general who lost his son in afghanistan on the battlefield. i mean, this man is revered by many in this nation. even though he went awry with the comments before the
-- >> the conversation woman. >> and the confederacy and the congresswoman. people still feel he is the neck under the head to help right this president. at issue they are having problems. i think also about steve bannon, remember when that "saturday night live" piece came out when the president sat down in his little chair versus the big chair. the president doesn't like that. he felt i am the president of the united states. he does have an ego let's just -- he is a brander but he has a big ego. and he didn't like that. that started a lot of the problem as well as steve bannon and kushner and the family not getting along. but for this one, the president doesn't like the optics of the fact that there is a problem but there is indeed a problem. we have to see how it plays out. >> thank you both. have a good weekend. when we come back why nancy pelosi is calling the proposal a campaign to make america white again. a democratic congressman who represents part of the
one wig a very high price. it include as pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants. it ends extended family may creation for new applicants. although existing applications are grandfathered. ends the diversity lottery and calls for $25 billion more the border wall and security programs. i want to talk about this this with congressman, representative for the area. thank you for joining us on cnn. president trump released his daca proposal. many democrats calling it a non-starter. what are your thoughts about the plan? >> you know, we certainly want to work a deal out that calls a pathway for the -- for the d.r.e.a.m.ers and find a sensible border security. as i told the president when 22 of us met with him there is a way of securing the border. but if you think a wall is the only way to secure the border
then you really doesn't understand the border because 40% of the undocumented aliens that we have in the u.s. come in through a legal permit or visa. or if you want to stop the drugs, most -- the drugs except for marijuana will come through the land bridges. so even if you put the most, quote, beautiful wall, it's not going to stop the people that you're trying to stop, and more importantly, the drugs will come through land ports instead of between ports. we want to work with the president. we want to work with our republican colleagues. but to put this high price of $25 billion for the wall and other security and cutting legal migration, that makes it hard to negotiate something that works for everyone. >> congressman, here is what the house minority leader nancy pelosi had to say earlier today about the proposal. >> the plan is a campaign to make america white again. it's a plan that says over 50%
of the current legal immigration will be cut back. that many people will be sent out of the country. if you read through it, you're thinking, do they not understand that immigration has been the constant reinvigation of america? >> do you agree with her congressman why does this make america white again? >> well, you know, let me put it this way, if you look at the demographics that we have, the u.s. is not having the births that we used to have like we used to have like we used to. so you need to have a constant flow of people through legal migration into the united states to make sure that we are able to have the jobs, fulfill those jobs that we need. so, again, i would not say that the way our leader would say it, but if you look at the what the white house is doing, it's very
smart because they dangle. they say we're not doing 800,000. we're putting 1.8. it sounds enticing on one end. but on the other side you are cutting down the number of legal migration. and if you look at it the large number of people coming in are hispanics because we have had ebbs -- highs and lows of different folks coming had might have been the german, the irish might have been the chinese, and right now it's the hispanics coming in, but if folks have a problem with that then they're doing this in a very smart way because they're saying we'll give you 1.8 right now, but in the long run they're going to cut millions and millions and millions and millions of legal migration because of what they are proposing. >> isn't mexico supposed to pay for the wall anyway? wasn't that one of the president's campaign promises? >> you know, you're right. i mean, here we are trying to say let's put $25 billion in a
trust fund. what happened to that other part of the campaign promise? because the president said, you know, we are building a wall. and mexico is going to pay for it. bust at the end of the day, who is paying for this? it's going to be the american taxpayers. so, again, he's trying to keep to that campaign promise, but, again, if you're equating the wall to border security, i'll say it again, they don't understand the border. you know, people that come into the border spend a few hours and they think they know more than some of us, people who have lived here all of our lives. they just don't understand it. there is other ways of securing the border. but putting a 14th century solution called the wall to meet some of the 21st century challenges we have shows that you do not understand the border security. >> but if the $25 billion wall would grant d.r.e.a.m.ers asylum here then is it worth it? why not do it? >> well, because, keep in mind,
it's not only the wall that they're talking about, but they're talking about cutting over a period of time millions, millions of legal migration into the united states. so they dangerle this saying, oh, we're not going to do 800,000. we're going to do 1.8. it sounds good. i appreciate that step forward. but then we take five steps backwards because they are culting legal migration in the long run. >> got it. representative thank you for your time. >> thank you so much. >> and when we come back, what do voters really think of the president's immigration plan? our radio hosts join us next with what their callers want. she's nationally recognized for her compassion and care. he spent decades fighting to give families a second chance. but to help others, they first had to protect themselves. i have afib. even for a nurse, it's complicated... and it puts me at higher risk of stroke. that would be devastating. i had to learn all i could
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we must replace our current system of extended family chain migration with a merit-based system of admissions that selects new arrivals based on their ability to contribute to our economy, to support themselves financially and to strengthen our country. >> here to discuss, john fretd ricks, a former co-chair of the trump campaign in virginia. and joe madsen of joe madsen show. good evening to both of you joy the new white house immigration framework offers a path to citizen ship for 2 million immigrants. but it comes with a price tag, $25 billion to bill the border wall. what are you yore listeners saying about it? >> what everyone else was say g saying, i thought mexico was paying for it.
that's exactly what my listeners are saying. in addition, they think the price is going to be higher, about rounding up d.r.e.a.m.ers, which is what the hard right wants them to, particularly those hard righters inside the west wing, then you might -- you might be looking at doubling that, because it cost to round people up, house them or detain them. it costs to ship them. but my listeners clearly are holding donald trump and his supporters feet to the fire gnaw promised that mexico will pay for that, and quite candidly, it's not going to happen. >> so, listen, some people aring it's a mixed from the white house. but it isn't -- i mean, isn't it a step in the right direction for daca recipients and people wanting to see some kind of reform, joe. >> yes, it is a step in the right direction. look what it's cost him, the far right has gone berserk. right-wing talk show hosts.
you have the ann coulters. you have the breitbarts. you have, you know, other -- just they have -- i mean, they're starting to call him names. they're literally bullying donald trump because of the position that he has taken. >> let's hear from a right-wing talk show host, john. you have some angry listeners too. but you're trying to convince them that it's a good deal. what are you telling them? >> look, my callers went 70/30 today in favor of the deal. but that skewed because i spent four hours passionately defending it. he has to get a deal on the table that was approach 60 votes in the u.s. senate because mitch mcconnell is not going to get rid of the cloture rule so you have to have some compromises. that's why we elected him.
you have to make some dealings. it reflects the political reality. the reaction today, don, from the democratic national party and the national democrats, the hypocrisy and the duplicity has been exposed. they ran around on 12 tv for 12 months saying the kids. the president says, okay, i'm going to take care of the kids. not only am i going to give amnesty and a pathway to citizenship for 800,000, but i'm going to give another 1 million children brought her illegally by their parents the opportunity to stay in america. and for that, i want simple legislative long-term immigration reform that has not been accomplished by nine consecutive president who's tried, starting with lbj. he's trying to get this deal done. the hypocrisy of the diplomats is this, they're more interested -- they were exposed today. they're more interested in power. they want chain migration because that is cheap labor for
their donors and some of the republicans and cheap votes. they don't care about the kids. if they did, they'd jump on this deal. to say that $25 billion for a wall is too expensive, here is a democratic party that obama took over. the debt was $8 billion. he left office, it was $18.5 billion. trillion, i'm sorry. >> but, john -- >> he spent all this money -- >> john -- >> let me just finish. >> john, what you're not addressing is the campaign promise that the candidate made, that the american people would not pay for that, and, please, don't sit here and look like $25 billion is chump change. it is not chump change. >> i didn't say that, but i said compare it -- comparing it to a $10 trillion increase in debt from the democrats, their complaining about it is simply laughable. now, let's get back to mexico paying for it. >> john, you're going to have to do it after the break.
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i mean, the reality is that every time -- >> yeah. >> we talk about the present and the future, you know, john goes back to what obama ended up with. well, obama's not president, and, you know, people are getting tired of hearing that, and i will tell john, some of your listeners must have come over to my show because they were ticked off -- and they are starting to question whether or not this makes sense. i will say this, did you not hear the congressman in the last segment say you're looking at a 14th century solution in the 21st century? it is -- the wall is nothing more than an ego tribute to donald trump. it's simply not going to work or at this point in time is it needed, but donald trump said mexico is going to pay for the
wall and the former president of mexico used some rather spicy language to say they're not going to pay for it. >> but now we're talking about $25 billion set aside in a fund for the wall, which means the american people are going to pay for the wall, joe -- john. >> that's exactly right. they're going to pay for it. and, look, if he had said that during the campaign, can you imagine if he said, look, supporters, $25 million -- i'm sorry, billion, $25 billion and you guys are going to pay for the wall, he would not have gotten elected. >> john, i want to get -- are your listener okay with them paying for the wall themselves? >> well, i think that the real argument here is when he said mexico is going to pay for the wall, he meant that through a series of tariffs, and, look, i'm a protectionist and i'm proud of it. >> my question was, are your listeners okay that they're
going to pay for the wall themselves instead of mexico because there have been no tariffs. he's asked to $25 billion. he's asking for $25 billion from the american people which means the american people are going to pay for the wall. >> that's why it's part of the deal. that's why 1.8 million is part of the deal. >> you have 30 seconds. >> let me directly answer your question. he just slapped tariffs on south korean washing machines and chinese solar panels. the tariffs are coming. >> it's not mexico. >> as far as trump's supporters, that's coming, as far as trump supporters, the trade-off of $25 billion with all the money that we spent, our people feel it's worth it because we have to go forward with this in order to get a structural legislative permanent chain migration -- >> you're making an excuse. you still didn't answer the question. if i ask you -- if i tell you someone else is going to pay this bill and then i ask for you $25 billion, it means that the other person is not paying for it, you're paying for it, i'm
asking you for the money, john. your whole thing doesn't make sense. i've got to go, though. i've got to go. thank you. i'll see you next time. that's it for us tonight. thanks for watching. bye. start your search at the all-new carfax.com that might help. show me the carfax. now the car you want and the history you need are easy to find. show me used trucks with one owner. pretty cool. [laughs] ah... ahem... show me the carfax. start your used car search and get free carfax reports at the all-new carfax.com.
donald trump, the salesman. the u.s. president touts the strong u.s. economy in davos. a las vegas casino mogul faces allegations ov sexual misconduct. paris on alert as rising floodwaters threaten parts of that beautiful city. >>itis all coming up this hour. we are coming to you live from atlanta, i'm natalie allen. >> i'm george howell. around the world, it is